THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
August 7, 2014
Guest: Christopher Hill, David Rohde, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Marc Ginsberg,
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Steve.
Our MSNBC breaking news coverage of the situation in Iraq continues.
President Obama confirmed a short time ago that he ordered a humanitarian
mission if Iraq today and that it has been carried out. Escorted by F-18
fighter jets, U.S. military cargo planes have successfully dropped food,
water and medicine in the Sinjar mountain area where thousands have fled
and are now trapped by Islamic State of Iraqi and Syria militants.
Forty thousand Yazidis, a small religious Kurdish speaking religious sect,
fled to Northern Iraq after ISIS threatened to execute anyone who did not
convert to Islam. ISIS blocked the roads. As many as 25,000 children now
have no access to food or water. At least 40 have died so far from
dehydration, and the extreme heat.
President Obama met with his national a security team in the Situation Room
earlier today and spoke just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, I authorized two
operations in Iraq: targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel,
and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are
trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain
Let me explain the actions we`re taking and why.
First, I said in June -- as the terrorist group ISIL began an advance
across Iraq -- that the United States would be prepared to take targeted
military action in Iraq if and when we determined that the situation
required it. In recent days, these terrorists have continued to move
across Iraq, and have neared the city of Irbil, where American diplomats
and civilians serve at our consulate and American military personnel advise
To stop the advance on Irbil, I`ve directed our military to take targeted
strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city.
We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces
threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our
consulate in Irbil and our embassy in Baghdad. We`re also providing urgent
assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more
effectively wage the fight against ISIL.
Second, at the request of the Iraqi government -- we`ve begun operations to
help save Iraqi civilians stranded on the mountain.
As ISIL has marched across Iraq, it has waged a ruthless campaign against
innocent Iraqis. And these terrorists have been especially barbaric
towards religious minorities, including Christian and Yazidis, a small and
ancient religious sect. Countless Iraqis have been displaced. And
chilling reports describe ISIL militants rounding up families, conducting
mass executions, and enslaving Yazidi women.
In recent days, Yazidi women, men and children from the area of Sinjar have
fled for their lives. And thousands -- perhaps tens of thousands -- are
now hiding high up on the mountain, with little but the clothes on their
backs. They`re without food, they`re without water. People are starving.
And children are dying of thirst.
Meanwhile, ISIL forces below have called for the systematic destruction of
the entire Yazidi people, which would constitute genocide. So, these
innocent families are faced with a horrible choice: descend the mountain
and be slaughtered, or stay and slowly die of thirst and hunger.
Now, I`ve said before, the United States cannot and should not intervene
every time there`s a crisis in the world. So, let me be clear about why we
must act, and act now.
When we face a situation like we do on that mountain -- with innocent
people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale, when we have a
mandate to help -- in this case, a request from the Iraqi government -- and
when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I
believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, live from the White House is NBC News White
House correspondent Kristen Welker.
Kristen, what is your understanding of the way this decision unfolded today
at the White House?
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the meetings
started here very early, Lawrence. President Obama meeting with his
national security team. And, of course, as you just heard, the president
mentioned they were discussing the request and the calls for the U.S. to
intervene, not only from the Iraqi government but also from lawmakers on
Capitol Hill, from other countries who were urging the United States to do
something, to deal with this humanitarian crisis.
And I think what is key in what the president said, Lawrence, you heard him
use the term "genocide." That really framed much of the thinking here at
the White House. This idea that it was incumbent upon this president, upon
this administration to do something to try to prevent what could believe a
genocide to prevent another Rwanda.
What is also key, Lawrence, and these meetings continued throughout the day
at the White House, was a determination about how this could be carried out
in a targeted way. So, that if in fact the United States does decide to
move forward with those air strikes that President Obama said are right now
contingent upon the actions of the extremist forces, that any military
action would be targeted and limited.
Of course, you heard the president reiterate the fact that there will be no
U.S. boots on the ground. As we`ve been discussing here all night long on
MSNBC, it is difficult once you engage militarily to guaranty that it is in
fact targeted and limited.
So I think that`s why you`re hearing the caution from the president, but
also strong words of warning to the extremists.
I also can tell you, Lawrence, I just learned that the chief of staff here,
Denis McDonough, did reach out to House Speaker John Boehner to brief him
on the decision made here tonight and the decision to make those air drops
to drop food and water, to help those 40,000 people who are stranded on top
of that mountain in northern Iraq -- Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Kristen, please stay with us, if you can --
O`DONNELL: -- as we`re joined also now by former U.S. ambassador to Iraq,
Christopher Hill, and "Reuters" investigative reporter David Rohde.
Ambassador Hill, what do you think is within the reasonable realm of the
possible for the U.S. on this mission?
AMB. CHRISTOPHER HILL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Well, certainly I
think the humanitarian mission will certainly help. Unclear how much it
can help, but it will help those people that are currently trapped up
Secondly, I think they can, with this threat of airstrikes, dissuade any
ISIL formation from attacking Kurdish lands in Irbil. The Kurds are
lightly armed but well-trained and a pretty well-disciplined force known as
the Peshmerga. So, airstrikes could in fact deter ISIL from attacking
Beyond that, hard to say, I think you always have to ask the question, and
then what, when you`ve used military force? It appears nobody is prepared
to go into Nineveh and into the center of Nineveh and push the ISIL out of
that province or out of Anbar. So we have a serious regional problem,
which goes well beyond the issue of governance in Baghdad.
To be sure, the U.S. has tried to make clear that we would like to hear
about a new government and a prime minister not named Maliki. But that may
still be a long way off.
So, we`re going to have to be facing some decisions while people in Baghdad
have not yet made their decisions.
O`DONNELL: I have a footnote here from the audience hearing many in the
news media say ISIS. We heard the president and just now Ambassador Hill
say ISIL. ISIL the Islamic state of Iraq and Levant, which is their chosen
name. The media refers to the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria, the more
modern, the country name now for that area.
David Rohde, we have these people on top of a hill who are surrounded by
people who want to murder them if they come down. The president is trying
to solve that problem, but they have to come down some time presumably.
DAVID ROHDE, REUTERS: Excellent question, and that`s the problem. So he`s
framed this to me very interestingly in terms of genocide. He`s not
talking about going to war against the Islamic state because they`re a
terrorist threat to the United States. He`s saying we`re going to save
these people. How do you save them with no boots on the ground?
Clearly, the Iraqi forces aren`t strong enough to go in there and get them
out. And it`s sort of -- he`s being very careful and he`s restricting this
effort, and that`s smart. But I think -- I`m not sure most Americans can
understand the end goal here and how we get there, because he`s framed it
And people are tired of the war on terror. But they kind of -- is this
genocide argument going to work for the American public?
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Hill, we did see ISIL deterred from moving on
Baghdad. So we`ve seen them kind of detour once before. This seems like a
harder place to get them to move out of. Now we`re trying to get them to
move away from a position they`re already in.
HILL: Well, again, I think we can deter them from the Kurdish areas of
Iraq. Right now they`re about 30 minutes from Irbil. I think they can be
pushed back from there.
I think the problem is, right now, they`re very well-established in western
Iraq and these provinces of Anbar and Nineveh, and parts of other
provinces. There the question is how are they going to be pushed back? I
think the Obama administration has put a lot of faith in the idea that a
new government in Baghdad will kind of rally everybody and pull people
together. But when you see some of the names emerging, nothing really is
So, I suspect that`s going to go on for quite a while. And meanwhile, this
group, this caliphate if you will, is going to be more and more
established. I think it has a regional dimension to it.
I think it could bring on more regional tensions, including the Sunni-Shia
tension. So, I think it`s something that we probably, along with some
other allies, including the French perhaps, maybe the Brits and maybe the
Turks, we`re going to have to be making some decisions.
O`DONNELL: David, as much as the president is obviously moved and
disturbed by what`s going on with the Yazidi people, they are being trapped
and all that, he has Americans right there in Irbil, right nearby, like 40
miles away from where this is happening. He has State Department
personnel, he has military personnel there, and they require his absolute
top priority for protections.
And it seems to me, although there was an awful lot of emotional weight in
the statements about genocide and that section of his speech, the part
where he was talking about protecting the American assets there is at least
as important and probably more important.
ROHDE: It is. The American embassy in Baghdad is the largest in the
world. There`s American Apache helicopters in Baghdad airport there to be
used if Baghdad itself comes under attack and you have hundreds of
Americans. Potentially, there`s talk of, you know, Islamic State forces
trying to encircle Baghdad.
So, this is it. There`s pressure growing for him to act. If he had not
acted now, there would be huge criticism from Republicans, which is to be
expected. But I talked to Ambassador Hill and other former ambassadors.
There`s four former ambassadors to Iraq, all calling for this kind of
action, airstrikes to stop this force and to do something at this point.
I think the president didn`t want to do this. He was undergoing pressure.
And it`s unclear where this those now, where this ends.
O`DONNELL: Kristen Welker, any word from the White House how Speaker
Boehner reacted when he was informed about this?
WELKER: Well, we`re still waiting to get the specific details of that
phone call, Lawrence. We just learned about the phone call, but you heard
President Obama say that members of Congress were briefed. As you know,
when he was trying to make a determination how to move forward with Syria,
that was a big part of the discussion, should Congress ultimately be able
to have approval and decide whether or not he could move forward with
taking some type of measured military action in Syria.
So, I think that was a key part of the way that this day unfolded. And
again, we`re learning that House Speaker John Boehner was briefed. I
anticipate other congressional leaders were briefed as well, before
President Obama came out tonight.
We`re still waiting to get reaction. We do know though there has been
strong calls from the Hill, though, for some type of intervention. Some
type of help for those people, those 40,000 people who are stuck on that
mountain, stranded there and who are suffering, who don`t have access to
food and water -- Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Hill, how would a political change of leadership in
Iraq stiffen the spine of even a single Iraqi soldier in uniform there?
HILL: Good question. I think essentially the hope is that the Sunni
community, which would include Anbar sheikhs, tribal leaders in Western
Iraq would be -- their morale, their spirit would be greatly heightened by
the departure of Maliki. If they could with some sort of technocrat who`s
not known for being a strong sectarian leader and they could perhaps get a
greater sense that they live in the political lifeblood of the country.
How that will translate into a recruit in the Iraqi army and more
specifically how that will translate to Iraqi army officers who need to
lead recruits is another matter. The problem has been the Iraqi army has
not performed well at all. And so, I think we have a serious problem,
which probably is not going to be solved just by the Iraqi army or by a
political deal in Baghdad.
I think we have a problem that`s more regional in nature. I think ISIS is
not particularly interested in concessions Maliki might make and whether
Maliki will give the Sunnis another ministry or something. I think ISIS
has a much bigger game in mind, much more regional game.
That`s where I think the United States has to think more broadly how to
O`DONNELL: And, David Rohde, ISIS is very clear about their goals, and
they`re very ambitious.
ROHDE: They`re very ambitious, you know, and they`re very effective. One
of the amazing things with what they`re doing militarily. They`re able to
move at least 1,000 fighters and they have tens of millions worth of
American military equipment that they`ve captured and bring them to bear.
The Peshmerga were seen as the better fighters in Iraq and they`ve rolled
right through them.
Their long term goal, they talk about is this state. They eventually talk
about getting and controlling the holy cities in Saudi Arabia. Saudi
Arabia has activated troops. One former ambassador said to me today the
only thing separating ISIS from this -- you know, Mecca and Medina and
Saudi Arabia is desert. That`s a long way away. There`s talk about
They can clearly destabilize the region with what they`re doing, and no one
-- no country right now, particularly the Iraqi state, has the military
strength, it seems, to stop them.
O`DONNELL: Kristen Welker, Ambassador Christopher Hill and David Rohde,
thank you all very much for joining me tonight. Thank you.
Coming up, more on the breaking news. We will tell you more about ISIS and
O`DONNELL: President Obama has authorized two air missions over Iraq
tonight. We will have more on this breaking news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLKP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We had sounds of mortars and in
the morning they entered Sinjar. So we fled to the mountain. Those who
stayed there are now suffering. They have no water.
They would take the girls and rape them. They say this Yazidis have to be
converted to Islam. This cannot happen.
Where are the officials? No one has looked after us and no one looked
after the fate of Yazidis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We`re continuing our breaking news coverage of the situation in
Iraq. Here is a look at is from Vice News.
BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sniper is based there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We Muslims are the ones who want to enforce Sharia in
this land. I swear to God, who is the only God, the Sharia can only be
established with weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Marc Ginsberg, former ambassador to Morocco,
and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, associate editor of "The Washington Post" and
author of "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Baghdad`s Green Zone."
Rajiv, to you, the question of the night, these people are trapped on top
of a mountain. The president has -- we hope -- successfully gotten them
food and water we hope, and some survival supplies in an area we know today
the temperature is probably going to go to 106 degrees where they are on
But, at some point, they are going to have to come down. What happens
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, where do they come down
to? Is forces are pretty well consolidated in Sinjar where most of these
individuals up on the mountain live. And who is going to fight for them?
That becomes the real big question here. You know, you can continue these
humanitarian aid drops but for how long?
When it comes to for instances, other elements of the Iraq fight, trying to
keep these ISIS forces from Irbil, you can see how Kurdish forces who are
in that city will be able to regroup and can potentially defend it. But
these Yazidis up there on the mountain, they don`t really have a militia
and the Iraqi army is far, far away from them. So, this doesn`t seem to be
a clear path to getting them off the mountain. You can feed, you can
hydrate them, but what then?
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Ginsberg, ISIS has been growing for years now, but
this is their year. This is the time, when they have come to dominate all
of the troubles that are going on in this region.
AMB. MARC GINSBERG, FORMER WHITE HOUSE MIDDLE EAST ADVISER: Absolutely.
It`s important for our viewers to understand this is the Ebola virus of
terrorism that is striking the Middle East. I hate to bring that analogy
in, but let`s understand.
Not only has ISIS consolidated control in Syria and northern Iraq, but
started a conflict with the Lebanese military. The Jordanians are
particularly worried about their border, and at this point in time, the
Kurds, the Peshmerga force doesn`t have the military capability, the
armored personnel carriers, the tanks that ISIS has already captured and
which forced Peshmerga, the Kurdish forces, to retreat.
So, in effect what you have is no military option. So when the president
gets on TV and says tonight, no boots on the ground and those people are
stuck on the mountain and we know that Irbil may be in danger, because the
Kurdish forces don`t have the military assistance they need, why is he
taking this off the table before he knows what he`s getting into?
O`DONNELL: And, Rajiv, talk about ISIS and how they compare to their
predecessors and the American notion of what we`re fighting over there, al
CHANDRASEKARAN: Well, You know, this view that these are a bunch of ragtag
fighters who just barreled through and the Iraqi army has collapsed --
well, yes, the Iraqi army has done poor job of trying to hold ground. But
these ISIS forces are actually fairly well-organized. They have a degree
of command and control.
And in the areas that they seize, they actually engage in a degree of civil
administration. It may not be pretty. It may not comport with our notions
of how you should govern and administer people. But they are flying their
flags over courthouses and schools. You know, in some parts of Syria that
they`ve taken over, they`ve established a food inspection authority.
They`re trying to reach out to the people. They`re trying to essentially
win the allegiances of the disaffected Sunni communities throughout western
and northern Iraq -- folks who have been very disenchanted by the
mismanagement and outright neglect and persecution in some cases by the
Maliki government. So, these ISIS forces, which started out really as an
al Qaeda option, via Iraq, the Islamic state of Iraq forces who then went
into Syria to participate in the civil war there, got enmeshed essentially
internecine conflict with other Syrian rebel groups, other extremist
groups, and to some degree, were pushed out of Syria, and have now found
much more fruitful terrain in sweeping through Iraq.
And they`ve been strategic about it. They haven`t engaged in what might be
a suicide mission at present to go into Baghdad. But instead they`re
finding the soft underbellies in Iraq throughout the west and the north and
have determined that the Kurdish forces really are not as strong as
previously had been thought. And now put into the awkward position of
having the central government in Baghdad, which has had a very tense
relationship with the Kurds, actually now try to find ways to bolster those
Kurdish forces so cities like Irbil don`t fall.
O`DONNELL: And, Ambassador Ginsberg, to Rajiv`s point, we have seen ISIS
swerve at least once before in terms of marching on Baghdad. This must be
what`s in the discussion in the White House Situation Room. What does it
take to knock them off their path?
GINSBERG: Well, the most important thing right now is that they`re posing
a direct threat to one of the major Kurdish cities of Irbil.
O`DONNELL: Where the American assets are.
GINSBERG: Where the American assets are.
When the president announced several weeks ago that he was going to send
American advisers, there`s a significant -- I think something like 30 to 40
of them stationed in Irbil. So there`s a present danger, and a large State
Department presence there, number one.
Number two, one of the things that`s been clear from our counterterrorism
advisers and FBI director is that ISIS agents, ISIS terrorist fighters who
are Americans, pose a direct threat to the United States. And the more
that they are able to gain a foothold in that region, the more they`re able
to not only fight but in effect to train terrorists to return to the United
States and Europe.
So, what`s happening on the front line is that not only does the Peshmerga,
the Kurdish forces need to be reinforced, but frankly I think the president
is going to have to be more strategic. It`s not merely getting these poor
souls off the mountain. It`s not only depending Irbil. ISIS poses a
direct military threat to our allies, as well as the homeland. And so, we
have to begin looking at this as a threat.
All of us have watched this, Lawrence, for weeks on end. We`ve understood
the threat that is going to continue to grow.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to take a break and be back with more of our
breaking coverage of the situation in Iraq tonight and the president`s
announcement of these two missions.
O`DONNELL: In his address to the nation tonight, President Obama talked
about problems the United States can help solve in Iraq, and the problems
Iraq must fix for itself. Here`s more of what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We can act carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of
genocide. That`s what we`re doing on that mountain. I therefore,
authorized targeted air strikes, if necessary, to help forces in Iraq as
they fight to break the siege on Mt. Sinjar and protect the civilians
trapped there. Already, American aircraft have begun conducting
humanitarian air drops of food and water to help these desperate men, women
and children survive.
Earlier this week, an Iraqi woman cried to the world, "there is no one
coming to help." Well, today America is coming to help. We`re consulting
with other countries and the United Nations who have called for action to
address this humanitarian crisis.
I know that many of you are rightly concerned about any American military
action in Iraq even limited strikes like these. I understand that. I ran
for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home
that. And that`s what we`ve done. As commander in chief, I will not allow
the United States be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq. And so,
even as we support Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists, American
combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq. Because there is no
American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq. The only lasting
solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi
However, we can and should support moderate forces who can bring stability
to Iraq. So even as we carry out these two missions, we will continue to
pursue a broader strategy that empowers Iraqis to confront this crisis.
Iraqi leaders need to forge a new government that represent the legitimate
interests of all Iraqis. And they can fight back against the threats like
Iraqis have named a new president, a new speaker of parliament and are
seeking consensus on a new prime minister. This is the progress that needs
to continue in order to reverse the momentum of the terrorists who prey on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: This is one of those days where in the situation room,
Ambassador Ginsberg, they`re trying to deal with an emergency situation but
they have to keep an eye on a long-term strategy. What long term strategy
were they clinging to in the White House today?
GINSBERG: I think the long term strategy was not only how do you deal with
the immediate issue, but what do you do to protect the Kurdish allies that
the United States has, number one. Number two, if ISIS is stopped in
Erbil, it will turn its attention to Jordan and Lebanon.
As I said earlier, part of the shelf, the fact that the Lebanese forces,
Lebanese military regular forces are battling ISIS forces on the Lebanese-
Syrian border should be a clear indication that the administration needs to
look at this as a broader strategy, requiring broader support. Why?
Because ISIS, after all, poses not only a threat to Iraq, this is the
president should be framing this as a broader threat to the United States.
Because ISIS is threatening United States. The leader of ISIS is a man
well known to American military in Iraq.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was held in prison. When he was released, Lawrence,
he declared to the American commander who released him, I will see you in
Rajiv, the president knew when he took office that he was going to have to
have an Iraq strategy. He knew when he got reelected he was going to have
to have an Iraq strategy. He now appears to have to have an Iraq strategy
and an ISIS strategy.
CHANDRASEKARAN: Yes. And this is a very challenging task for the
president, you know. He`s right that the long-term solution in Iraq is
political compromise. You need a new government in Baghdad, You need new
inclusive government. But it doesn`t look like that`s going to happen
You know, everybody is hopeful that the result of these most recent
elections will lead to a new prime minister, Malaki goes. But at present,
he doesn`t seem like you`re going to get the big government that Washington
is hoping for.
And even if you do, Lawrence, then trying to win back over the allegiances
of the Sunnis, trying to re-empower the Iraqi army, that`s a long-term
strategy. So I think what we have to expect here, I think what the
president`s strategy here is going to be months potentially months and
months of ISIS control, of large swaths of Iraq as the political track
moves forward, as the Iraqi army seeks to bolster itself. And all the
while, a lot of trepidation from Iraq`s neighbors as Ambassador Ginsberg
has noted. The Lebanese, the Jordanians, the Saudis, everybody looking at
this very anxiously. Even the Iranians are very concerned.
But at present, it`s hard to see how if we`re ruling out boots on the
ground, that -- and air strikes only in defense of U.S. interests there,
and potentially to avert this genocide up in the north, how that is going
to expeditiously evict ISIS from Iraq and change the overall political
dynamics on the ground.
O`DONNELL: David Rogue, there are situations that defy strategy and simply
leave you in day-to-day crisis and emergency management. Is that where we
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is, as long as the president is not declaring the
Islamic state a direct threat to the United States. And that`s what he has
done in this very importantly. he is not doing that. George W. Bush, I
think would have been
O`DONNELL: He`s specifically withholding that statement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And Ambassador Ginsberg is saying he should maybe
make that the issue. I`m not sure Americans are going to buy it. I mean,
you know, it is very interesting because this president, you know, doesn`t
hesitate to carry out drone strikes in Yemen. He doesn`t hesitate to carry
a drone strike in Pakistan and what he sees is a clear threat to the United
States. But he is not doing that here.
And there is a little bit of political over. FBI experts and other people
have said the Islamic state will be a threat to the United States, but he`s
not going there yet. And again, he sort of in a political box here. And I
don`t know how he`s going to rally the public without frankly making
Americans fear the Islamic statement.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Ginsberg, that statement about New York seems to
indicate that ISIS at the top anyway has all the ambition that Al Qaeda
GINSBERG: Well, let`s remember now. And this is not something that we are
creating from a whole cloth, Lawrence. There are people that have gone
from the United States, who are gone to be trained by ISIS, who have gone
in and become suicide bombers for ISIS, who have gone on camera to declare
they were going to return to the United States. There was one of them that
actually returned to the United States from Syria and went back again. And
then the head of the FBI declared before Congress that the ISIS proposes
the greatest threat to homeland security of the United States.
So whereas I bit disagree with David is that the president can`t have it
both ways. If this organization poses a bit threat that the FBI and the
head of counterterrorism claims that it does pose, then the president
should come out and say to the American people. After all, his polling in
the United States right now on foreign policy is about as low as it can
get. What he is worried? What he should be doing is more worried about
mobilizing American support to defend a homeland and trying to protect the
United States against ISIS.
O`DONNELL: Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Marc Ginsberg and David Rogue (ph), thank
you all very much for joining me tonight.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, there is more breaking news tonight. This time in
Hawaii where the first hurricane in 22 years is hitting at this hour. And
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is back in the show tonight.
O`DONNELL: The first hurricane in 22 years to hit Hawaii is expected to
make a landfall at any moment now. Hurricane Iselle is expected to hit all
of the Hawaiian islands with wind and rain strong enough to flood roads and
knock out power. And there`s another storm following closely behind that
Joining me now is the weather channel`s Chris Warren.
CHRIS WARREN, THE WEATHER CHANNEL: Yes. Hello to you, Lawrence.
This is a look at the storm right here. Still 75-mile-an-hour maximum
sustained winds. The brighter colors, the bigger clouds, the most intense
rain, the biggest storms right now getting closer and closer to the big
island of Hawaii. With this, to all of the main islands in Hawaii, there
will be a threat of damaging winds. Also some very heavy rain associated
with this storm.
So this is it right here. Winds again, 75 miles an hour. That`s what
we`re dealing with, with this storm. And we are going to show you right
now the track of this storm, as we look at that track right now, we are
dealing with a strong storm at 75 miles an hour. Again, we are looking at
expecting this storm. We seem to have a bit of a graphics issue right now.
But we are going to be dealing and tracking this storm on the weather
Lawrence, back to you.
O`DONNELL: Chris Warren, thank you very much.
Coming up, Kansas governor Sam Brownback is in the rewrite. He has a very
strange thought about who is to blame for his political troubles.
O`DONNELL: In the rewrite tonight, Sam Brownback rewrites his problem with
Republicans. Sam Brownback is a Republican governor of Kansas. He`s
struggling in his reelection campaign because he has a serious problem with
Kansas Republicans. In Kansas, there are almost twice as many registered
Republicans as registered Democrats. So a problem with Republicans could
end the Kansas Republican governor`s career.
Governor Brownback suffered a major defection of Republican voters in the
primary. Thirty seven percent of Republican primary voters voted for a
Republican challenger they had barely heard of.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER WINN, REPUBLICAN PRIMARY NOMINEE: Hi. I`m Jennifer Winn. I`m
running against Sam Brownback in the Kansas Republican primary. The
Brownback experiment has failed. We should have a tax system that offered
relief to small businesses and middle class families. Ending corporate
welfare will save Kansas taxpayers $1.1 billion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The Brownback experiment that failed, according to Jennifer
Winn and the Republicans that voted for her was Brownback`s radical tax
cuts. Yesterday, Kansas City Star reported that Standard and Poors
downgraded the Kansas city bond rating quote "because of declining revenue
following massive income tax cuts signed into law by Governor Sam
Brownback. The rating could lead to higher interest rates on state
borrowing, ultimately costing tax payers more money."
Winning 37 percent of the vote in a Republican primary against an incumbent
governor in Kansas would not be an impressive showing for an established
Republican, with the well-funded campaign, that was not Jennifer Winn.
Jennifer Winn had, shall we say, a few liabilities running for office and
especially running for office as a Republican in Kansas.
For example, she is in favor of legalizing marijuana, and she got 37
percent of the Republican vote. And one of the reasons she`s in favor of
legalizing marijuana is that her 22-year-old son is currently facing first
degree murder charges in Kansas as the result of a marijuana deal that
turned fatal. That`s who got 37 percent of the vote in a Republican
primary against an incumbent Republican governor.
A Salina Journal editorial asked how does a political newcomer win with no
name recognition or funding and who run for office only because her son was
charged with murder and who backs legalizing marijuana in Kansas get 37
percent of the votes against a sitting governor?
Good question. Sam Brownback has an answer for that. And no, it`s not his
failed tax cut experiment. As Kansas Republicans were casting their votes
on Tuesday, Governor Brownback was asked why polls indicated so many of
them were going to vote against him.
Now, I would like to pause right here, just to give you all a chance to
guess who Sam Brownback blamed for Republicans voting against Sam
Brownback. Hint, the winner of this particular tweet race will be the
person who can type the word Obama the fastest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Some percentage of Republicans will vote for
somebody for governor who is not you. What`s going on within the
Republican party here in Kansas? Why is there some degree of
dissatisfaction on the Republican side?
GOV. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: Well, I think a big part of it is Barack
Obama. And a lot of people are so irritated of what the president is
doing, they just are -- they want somebody to throw a brick and they`re
irritated about what has happened to their country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Throw a brick. That`s right. Barack Obama has irritated 37
percent of Republicans in Kansas city to the point that they threw a brick
at the Republican governor of Kansas.
Thanks to President Obama, presumably things are looking worse for Governor
Brownback in November now that his Democratic challenger Paul Davis has
taken a slight lead in some of the polls.
Political scientist Larry Sabato says Brownback has proven so controversial
and alienated so many traditional moderate conservative Republicans that
somewhat incredibly, the GOP candidate in Kansas of all places is
struggling to retain his office. Amazingly, the incumbent has trailed in
most polls to state house minority leader Pau Davis and reports coming out
of the Jayhawks state signaled that Brownback could actually lose. The
incumbent has barely outraced his challengers so far this year. And only
did so by way of a $500,000 loan from his running mate. Without that
assistance, Davis would have raised $370,000 more than Brownback in that
time. We are shifting this contest from lame`s Republican to toss-up.
According to Sam Brownback any way, President Obama has made the Kansas
governor`s race a toss-up.
O`DONNELL: Tennessee held primary elections today and the tea party lost
another one in the Republican senate race. Incumbent senator Lamar
Alexander faced tea party challenger Joe Carr. And the Associated Press
has called this race for Lamar Alexander. The count as of now, Alexander
with just over 50 percent, Carr currently stands at nearly 40 percent.
We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: After deliberating for almost ten hours, a jury in Detroit
found 55-year-old Theodore Wafer guilty of three charges. Guilty of second
degree murder, guilty of manslaughter, guilty of use of a firearm and a
felony. On November 2nd, 2013, there Wafer shot 19-year-old Renisha
McBride in that face with the 12-gauge shotgun.
Renisha McBride was intoxicated and went away to his front porch after
crashing a car nearby. While Wafer testified on Monday that he acted in
self-defense, prosecutors argued that he shot and killed a young woman who
was simply looking for some help after an accident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK MUSCAY, ASSISTANT PROSECUTOR: November 2nd, 2013, Miss McBride
injured, disoriented, just wanted to go home. Yet she ended up in the
morgue with bullets in her head and in her brain. Because the defendant
picked up this shotgun and released this safety, raised it, at her, pulled
the trigger, and blew her face off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Renisha McBride`s mother, Monica, spoke with reporters after
the verdict was announced.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONICA MCBRIDE, RENISHA MCBRIDE`S MOTHER: The prosecutors, they did a
wonderful job of proving their burden that they had. They had a heavy
burden, but they made it through. It was overwhelming. I kept the faith,
and I stayed positive. We know as parents how we raised her. She was not
violent. She was a regular teenager. She was well raised and brought up
with a loving family. Her life mattered and we showed that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Wafer`s sentencing is set for August 25th. He could face life
Joining me now is MSNBC contributor and managing editor for front lines`
JPS, Goldie Taylor.
Goldie, it`s a peculiar verdict and that he was convicted of second degree
murder and manslaughter. Why is that?
GOLDIE TAYLOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Sure. You know, those are two very
different charges. And second degree murder happens to be a homicide in
commission of another felony. That felony in Michigan was manslaughter.
In Such, you have two charges. It`s rare but prosecutors sometimes take
this to get as many charges on the table to make certain that we are appeal
proof and we`re going to get the max sentence.
O`DONNELL: And when you watched that prosecutor delivering that final
statement, he certainly presented this as a very deliberate act by Theodore
TAYLOR: Well, you don`t pull the trigger on a 12 gauge shotgun by
accident. This was a very deliberate act, motions that you have to take,
the aim you have to take. And we`re not talking about a hair trigger. We
are talking about something that takes the force of weight to pull that
trigger. And so, the day as, you know, Mr. Wafer said the night -- that
say he was finally arrested, that he said this gun somehow went off on its
own. Just the evidence could not bear that out. Then he changed his story
and said that this was self-defense. I think those conflicting statements
are what the jury had to decide on and decided that they just weren`t
O`DONNELL: What specifically did he say Renisha McBride did to make him
fear for his life?
TAYLOR: She banged on his door at 4:00 in the morning.
O`DONNELL: Yes, that`s just not enough.
TAYLOR: That`s not enough. But when we are talking about this day in age
and this is the side that we all come to this with our own cultural biases.
We saw a young black woman standing on his doorstep at 4:00 in the morning.
You have to ask yourself, what if someone else were standing there. What
if she were white? You know, what if she were a boy, a young black male,
would he have done the same thing and would the outcome with this child had
been any different?
And so, you know, those questions will never be answered. But what we do
know is that this prosecutor decided not to put those issues on the table.
Because at the end of the day, this was about the facts of this case and
that Renisha McBride`s life had as much value as any other.
O`DONNELL: And it`s another one of those tragic days, Goldie, today where
we see an African-American mother standing there in a moment of what do we
call it? Triumph? Because the killer of her child has been found guilty.
I mean, what kind of moment is that?
TAYLOR: I think there was maybe a moment of satisfaction. But I also
heard that mother defending the life of her child, saying this child was
not violent, that she was raised in loving, stable home. And so, I think
that those things that a mother has to say to that.
O`DONNELL: Goldie Taylor, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
TAYLOR: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Up next, our live coverage of the breaking news on the
situation in Iraq continues with Ari Melber in for Chris Hayes.
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